With lofty expectations for freshman Paige Bueckers heading into the season, UConn was anticipated to have one of the country’s best backcourts and the Huskies’ four starting guards lived up to the hype.
Here’s how UConn’s backcourt performed this season:
The punchline: With pass-first players like Bueckers and Nika Mühl frequently running the point, the Huskies ranked second in the nation with an average of 20.4 assists per game this season. Making the extra pass also led UConn to the second best field goal percentage in the country at 51 percent.
Paige Bueckers: It’s hard to oversell how good Bueckers was this season. She exceeded the seemingly impossibly high expectations set for her on her arrival to Storrs and collected virtually every available award to close out the best freshman season in program history. Bueckers led the country in Win Shares per Her Hoop Stats, contributing an estimated 12.9 wins for UConn this year. Even when accounting for her high volume of minutes, she was fifth in the nation for Win Shares per 40 minutes.
Bueckers led the Huskies in both scoring and assists, averaging 20.0 points and 5.8 assists per game. She either scored or assisted on 40 percent of UConn’s made field goals this season. Bueckers was also UConn’s most efficient guard this season, scoring 1.09 points per play (which ranked in the top one percent of the country) and shooting an eye-popping 46 percent from deep.
Christyn Williams: While Williams was solid for the Huskies all season long, she took off in the 2021 postseason after emerging as UConn’s best lockdown defender. Williams’ elite defense in both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments fueled a stronger offensive presence on the court. She averaged 18.5 points per game in the postseason and scored over 20 points in the Huskies’ last three games in the NCAA Tournament.
On the season, Williams was the Huskies’ second leading scorer, averaging 16.3 points per game. She was exceptionally good driving in the lane, scoring nearly 1.4 points per possession around the basket and finished more efficiently at the rim than some of the country’s best bigs. If Williams can perform at the level she did in the postseason throughout all of next year, she could give Bueckers some competition in the national player of the year race.
Evina Westbrook: Westbrook did a little bit of everything for the Huskies this season but her leadership both on and off the court was unquestionably her biggest contribution to the team. Westbrook’s overall numbers aren’t very flashy: she averaged 9.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. However, in virtually every game she stepped up to give UConn whatever they needed to get the win, whether that be a big defensive play, a strong scoring performance or attacking the glass.
Westbrook ranked second in the country for Defensive Win Shares and ranked in the top five percent nationally for total steals and blocks this season. She was one of the Huskies’ biggest threats from deep earlier in the season but a shooting slump in the latter half of the season left her 3-point percentage around 33 percent. Westbrook did finish the season strong, going 7-11 from beyond the arc in the Huskies’ last three games.
Nika Mühl: Mühl’s numbers don’t jump off the page but her energy set the tone for UConn’s defense in the second half of the season and proved to be a major driver of the Huskies’ turnaround following the loss to Arkansas in late January. Mühl brings an intensity on the defensive end of the floor which produced 1.7 steals per game this season and came up with the steal on 3.6 percent of UConn’s opponents’ possession while on the floor, which ranked in the top four percent of the nation.
While Mühl wasn’t a consistent contributor on the offensive end for UConn, she scored in double figures three times, including a 19-point performance against Creighton. She also knocked down three triples for the Huskies on four occasions this season, demonstrating an ability to be a threat from deep. Additionally, prior to struggling with ankle injuries in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments, Mühl averaged over three assists per game.
Anna Makurat: Makurat played in just 16 games for the Huskies in a season largely plagued by injuries. Makurat struggled to get shots to fall and never delivered the 3-point shooting UConn got from her last season. Still, she continued to demonstrate her excellent court vision and played a key role in helping facilitate the Huskies’ offense prior to her injury in the early part of the season. Makurat announced she will not return to UConn next year and will instead return home to play professionally in Europe.
Saylor Poffenbarger: Poffenbarger graduated early from high school and joined the Huskies in January to capitalize on the additional year of eligibility provided for COVID-19. We only saw Poffenbarger on the court for ~30 minutes this season, typically in the final minutes of a game. Still, she showed the confidence to put up shots despite being new to the team and should be better prepared for her freshman season with a semester already under her belt.
Autumn Chassion: Chassion appeared in just eight games for the Huskies as a walk-on this season. While she played 15 minutes in late game action this year, she did score eight points (including two three-pointers) and added two rebounds and three assists in her very limited court time.
Looking ahead: UConn’s backcourt was already among the best in the nation, and it only gets better next season. While the Huskies lose Anna Makurat, they’ll add Azzi Fudd (the No. 1 overall recruit in the class who is rumored to be even better than Bueckers) and Caroline Ducharme (the No. 5 overall recruit). It’s hard to imagine any set of guards in the country next season being better than UConn’s.